Neil Patrick Harris enjoyed his time so much on Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, and became such a popular figure because of it, that he has returned in the film's two follow-ups. In the latest, A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas -- out now -- Harris is still playing himself, yet his laugh at his persona self is even more outrageous.
Harris sat down with Movie Fanatic recently to discuss his role in the series and how playing himself, or "NPH" as he is known in the film, has been one of his career's most welcomed surprises. He even adds his two cents on the dancing abilities of John Cho and Kal Penn!
Movie Fanatic: Did it take a lot of arm twisting to get your partner, David Burtka, to join you on this merry Harold and Kumar journey?
Neil Patrick Harris: That was a little more massaging and finessing on my part. Originally he was involved in that first half of it and then he kind of just went away. Like, we had a fight in the dressing room and then he kind of skulked off. I thought it made more sense for him to have a powerful position within the dynamic, so it was kind of my pitch to have him be my dealer because I thought that was funny. Actually the studio was kind of weirded out by that, but they agreed in the end. I think it was a good call.
Movie Fanatic: You have an incredible song and dance sequence in A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas (don't miss our review). As a song and dance man, was that easy to fall into?
Neil Patrick Harris: We did this in an afternoon in a recording studio and it was great fun. It's really fun to do these things in a recording studio rather than having to do them live because you can embellish here and there and use funny weird references. You can riff if you want and see if that's funny. We just angled towards what was funniest and cleanest.
Movie Fanatic: How would you rate Kal Penn and John Cho's dancing ability in that scene?
Neil Patrick Harris: Just terrible [laughs]. But, thankfully, they were supposed to be terrible. That was intentional so they just brought them in on the rehearsal day at the very last minute for like an hour to figure out what was going to happen. But too polished was bad. Kal has a real fear of falling apparently. That thing where they get knocked over at the end and fall out of frame, he had to fall into a big airbag thing that was literally four feet from where he was, and he just couldn't do it without looking back. We had to coax him into trusting that he could fall back.
Movie Fanatic: Looking back, what do you make of the whole NPH legend that was spurred by the first Harold and Kumar?
Neil Patrick Harris: It was sort of weirdly reverential even though I was such a mess in it and stole their car. They were still kind of like, "That was cool, I guess." The first movie I was really concerned about because the franchise didn't exist back then. You don't want to sign up for something playing yourself and then have a new writer come on board and change the tone of it and suddenly they're making jokes at your expense. I just legally was very specific about what my specific content entailed, and they were super cool with all of that.
Movie Fanatic: Now that it's out in the public zeitgeist, what do you make of it all now?
Neil Patrick Harris: It makes me scratch my head. It's funny. Yeah, I think it's funny. I'm glad that I'm able to, while the NPH legend is carrying on, that I'm allowed to do other roles like Barney or some theater stuff or get to have people see me as myself as well, so it doesn't seem like I'm trying to create some sort of facade. Does that make sense? I'm glad it's a tangent and not the only way you're seeing me, because then it might feel like I'm trying to overcompensate for something.
Movie Fanatic: Did John Cho and Kal Penn offer you anything to do in this film that was just too much?
Neil Patrick Harris: Not really. I don't like to be disparaging about my past roles. That's the only taboo that I don't like to cross. I don't think it's funny to have cracked-out NPH talking (expletive) about Vinnie. I just don't think that's funny. If you look back on the first movie, he's very wistful about that whole chapter and regretful and missing it. I think that's a funnier take than "I'm too cool for my past." That's just not my style.
Movie Fanatic: Since this is a Christmas movie, what are some of your favorite holiday traditions?
Neil Patrick Harris: Our family always dealt with stockings. Rather than having Santa come and fill the stockings on Christmas morning, the stockings were slowly filled throughout the month and it was a trust thing to not reach in and see what was going on inside. So the stockings were slowly filled by everyone, which is kind of a cool tradition I think. I didn't look. I actively don't want to know. I would love, and I encourage my family, to tell me, "Don't look in this closet. That's where your presents are." I don't want to have to inadvertently find a gift and go like, "What the hell is -- oh no, that's for me!" And then have to pretend like I'm surprised later. I won't look. If I know where they're hidden, I will not look. I love presents and I hate faking surprises.
Movie Fanatic: How is having Kal on How I Met Your Mother?
Neil Patrick Harris: It's great. It's the first thing he's done as far as I know since spending two years in the White House, so he was oddly nervous. But he quickly got over that and he fits right in.